It's Oscars time. Somebody wake the Grouch.

Friday, June 02, 2006

This is going too far!!!!!

Scrolling through the news today this headline seems to stick out, "David Copperfield to Impregnate Woman Onstage". Now backstage sure, but ONSTAGE? I think that has got to be wrong on so many levels I can't fathom them all. Copperfield says he will do it without touching her in any way, but hasn't that line been a bit over used through the years. Anyhow, even though it will all surely be another hoax propagated (literally, I guess) by the malevolent Mr. Copperfield, it certainly gives one the heebie-jeebies. I would rather he just make the Statue of Liberty disappear again or fill Madison Square Garden with ravenous eels.

Today I'm not here to talk about the randy goings-on of David Copperfield, but in my limited time I want you to relate to you a topic of the utmost gravity: My twenty year high school reunion. Yes, one of the string of events that leads one into the "old dude" phase of their lives is upon me and this very evening I will be attending its first night. Some of you might be saying things like, "Twenty years isn't that long" or, "I remember my twenty year reunion" or even, "Lay that horsewhip to my back cowboy." To them (Except that last guy - I'm going to avoid him) I would say, just let me wallow in self-pity.

What does the night hold in store for me? Superficial conversations over hors d'oeuvres and the latest vintage of Budweiser with guys who have nicknames like: Worm, the Forehead, Spaz, Skinny, and the Wop. For most, this will be followed by many more trips to the keg, falling down in the parking lot, and passing out. I will not be included in the last group having left much earlier after talking to the few I want to see. For a little background, without giving any personal info, I went to an all boys Catholic boarding school. There, I admit it and now you understand the depth of my psychosis. While I was a day student and not a boarder, I was tortured in numerous mental and physical ways just like every good Catholic boarding school student should be.

Your first year at a Catholic school such as I attended, is spent trying to survive into your second year at a Catholic school. One of the rites of passage we day student freshmen endured was being hoisted up by a rope tied around our feet and thrown over the branch of a tree. We were then either beaten or psychologically tortured (How I wish this was a joke), and then you had to carry an upperclassman's books to his class, ensuring you were late for yours. We called that a good day. For the next year or so you endured the same punishment awaiting the day that you would become an upperclassman and be able to dish out your own repressed angst. Will the cycle ever be broken? I think we'll be enjoying the energy produced by cold fusion and flying rocket cars to work before that day will come, but there is always hope for the next class of pimply adolescents.

So off I go to enjoy a night of reliving the hazy past with a group of people I rarely if ever see. I just hope David Copperfield's not providing the entertainment.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Football-Haters Club...

...a club which I am most obviously not a member of, is gearing up in Germany for the upcoming World Cup.

The initiative is called "Football-Free Zone" (No, I'm not linking to to the bleeding site) and will attempt to promote German cuisine and attractions as an alternative to the world's biggest sporting event. So, instead of watching Germany play Costa Rica in the opening match, you can scarf knockwursts from the battlements of a Bavarian castle while watching German mimes play out the Rheinbundakte, or something like that. Of course, you could do that after the match too, if you really fancy watching people dressed like the cast of Sprockets lurch awkwardly about while portentious narrators mumble interminally in the background about what a putz Napoleon was.

Even so, one might have an iota of sympathy for citizens not into sport who live in a country hosting such a massive tournament. However, unlike the Torino Olympics, the World Cup actually means something.

In addition, the anti-football forces are being marshalled by a theatre director from Munich. A small bit of advice: If you're going to have an anti-sports campaign, you might try having it fronted by an ex-athlete, or an outdoorsman, rather than theatre directors, dance choreographers, or interior decorators. There's nothing wrong with any of these professions in and of themselves, but they do tend to suggest people not in tune with the rigours of competitive sport, or with the rigours of working class life in general. It's hard to take someone who doesn't like sport very seriously when their hobbies are along the lines of "reading Brecht at my summer home" or "working out the complexities of mise en scene in the confines of the proscenium arch" or even lighter fare, such as, "editing my dissertation on Commedia del Arte and Fascism."

The pathetic irony of it all is that they'll spend most of their campaign having conversations like this one:

Prissy Munich Theatre Director: You should not waste your time on these silly games! There is more to life than grown men running around chasing balls!

Sodden Football Fan: Bet you know all about that, mate! (winks drunkenly) By the way, who won the Holland/Argentina match today, squire?

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Stew is out there somewhere...

...meaning he's returned from his annual sojourn to Disney World, where he and his family make a pilgrimmage to commune with giant rats, trouserless ducks, large misshapen talking dogs, and gigantic yellow non-talking dogs, who apparently don't breed with the talking ones. Also, I am sure they met many princesses, as Disney World is crawling with them the way Amsterdam is crawling with courtesans (strangely enough, the dress code is quite similar, or so I hear). I'm sure they heard many, many songs as well...and went shopping. Disney World is really just a gigantic shopping mall disguised as a theme park. Surely, you don't think Walt made all that money from the movies? The Rescuers? The Aristocats? Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo? Please.

He also may have run across U.S. National Soccer (football) Team player Gregg Berhalter, who was on vacation with his family there when he learnt that he'd been called up to the national team. Which means that Berhalter may have gone directly from It's a Small World to the World Cup, which is the lamest joke I could think of. I was considering something involving Epcot, you know, "He went from visiting Epcot Italy to playing Italy," but there's really not much there. It'd be one thing if he was munching on a gigantic novelty biscotti when he got the phone call, or drowning his sorrows in Peroni, but being a well-conditioned footballer, he was probably eating a baked chicken wrap, and sipping Dasani in between laps around the World Pavilion.

Stew did run into PGA golfer and former US Open Champion Jim Furyk on a previous visit to UberDisney. Furyk is the man whose golf swing is so ungainly that commentator and former player David Feherty once described it as looking like "A man trying to kill a snake in a phone booth." Anyway, I can't remember the details of the encounter except that Furyk apparently had a fairly normal swing before Stew gave him a few "pointers." The last time Stew gave me golf pointers, I nearly killed the starter at our local course, who was standing about 300 yards behind me and up a hill behind trees. One thing you can say about Stew and golf: The man knows how to get distance.

Anyway, bug him for me will you. Send him e-mail begging for a post or four. Make fun of his collection of Addidas golf shirts. Refer to him as "Stewby." Ask him about his magical encounter with a Yeti. (This last bit is also an attempt to draw Zimpter out. Zimpter would leapfrog a skyscraper to catch a glimpse of a yeti or Bigfoot.) Tell him it's for the good of humanity.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Brett Ratner Destroys the X-Men

Who is Brett Ratner? No, he's not some newfangled mutant with incredibly deadly powers, unless you count the ability to defeat insomnia as a mutant power. Why, he's the director of X-Men III: The Last Stand, that's who! You know this because he slaps his name in big letters right at the end of the film, just so everyone knows who to blame.

He's also the director of the magnum opuses Rush Hour I and Rush Hour II, noted for Chris Tucker's amazing performance as Jackie Chan's annoying second banana. These are the films where Jackie always has a look on his face that says, "What the hell are we doing here? Why couldn't Sammo Hung have directed this crap? He'd at least make it funny. Can I kick Brett? Can we put that in the outtakes?? Chris, go annoy Brett!"

Ratner is also the director of the "masterful" (and I mean that with complete sarcasm, just in case you didn't notice) Madonna: The Video Collection. Jean Renoir, Alfred Hitchcock, and Orson Welles step aside! Madonna? Who needs Citizen Kane when we could be watching sleazy ripoffs of 50's musical dance routines with a stereotypical gay subtext that makes Cruising look like a GLAAD public service announcement.

Why am I so completely miffed with Mr. Ratner? Well, at the risk of sounding like a comic book geek (I assure you, I was cured decades ago), let's just say that the director of the latest installment of one of comicdom's most beloved groups might as well go around wearing a t-shirt with the words "I don't give a damn about the [expletive deleted] X-Men, I'm just here for the huge sums of money!! Somebody pay me now or I'll make Wolverine into a lambada instructor!!"

I won't give away the plot, which has about as much to do with the actual comic series as Hamlet has to do with SpongeBob SquarePants. In short, Ratner and the screenwriters, Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn (Whose combined names are an anagram for "Nos gremi Zinnbe Kanpk", which is Hungarian for "Quality is not our bag, baby!") decided to jettison a well-known and beloved storyline for a plot that looks as though it were cobbled together in 20 minutes between bong hits.

In addition, the writing, the direction, the ambience, the "jenesequa" -however that may be spelled in the actual French-, the mood, the tone, and the pacing of the film were just slightly beneath that of a short opus depicting a swarm of flies' conquest of a steaming pile of cow dung (See the Cannes Film Festival).

The special effects were quite good though, if you can accept that they were utilized to utterly destroy everything that Marvel Comics worked for in that series. Stan Lee and Chris Claremont, were the cameos worth it? What's next, John Byrne sells Ratner his first born for a chance to draw the film poster? Marvel digs up Jack Kirby's bones and puts them in a prominent corner of the screen next to the Coca-Cola product placement?

Add to that some very blatant continuity errors, such as night falling on the city of San Francisco faster than it takes Tom Cruise to sound like a nutjob in a television interview (official average time: 2.47 seconds), and you have the kind of performance that would have gotten a director shot in the grand, if cynical, old days of the studio system.

Louis B. Mayer, were he still alive, would have eaten Ratner's liver with fava beans for that kind of work, and done the awful impression of Anthony Hopkins sucking his teeth, even though he would have never seen the movie in his lifetime. (Ironically, Ratner directed Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in Red Dragon...meaning the irony would not be lost on Brettkins.) Irving Thalberg would have beaten him to a pulp with an old riding crop, just to let him know he was back in the 30's and that's how we did things back then you sorry bastard. Then he would have fired him...rehired him to give him a flimsy shred of hope, and then fired him again...twice.

Finally, I won't give away the ending, but there's the slightest, lamest hint of a sequel...which leads us to the question: "What part of 'The Last Stand' does Bretty Ratner not understand?

I suspect it's the part about not getting another fat cheque for turning in a film that a piece of Limburger cheese could have directed with more aplomb.

Yes, I am vexed. It's one thing when Hollywood takes something people enjoy and does it poorly, it's quite another when they take something people enjoy and crap all over it with glee.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Remember...


...all those who gave their lives so that the rest of us could live free, worship as we please, speak our minds, live where we want (and yes, even write silly blogs on the Internet, though it's a small thing compared to the rest).

It's Memorial Day in the States, and to all those who've sacrificed life and limb and time to keep people free, and to their families who share in that sacrifice, thank you.

You are not forgotten.

(photo: Fort Meade, Sound Off)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Five Times the Peril

Peril? What peril?

My soul doesn't look a thing like sliced bologna. It's more like hard salami.

Five Times the Mutated People

I just saw what is most assuredly an Academy Award winning film, and a film which teaches us that being beautifully deformed is more glorious than a thousand winters of freedom. It was the recently unleashed film X-Men 3: The Last Stand, and not to give anything away, but it ends with a violent fire storm of destruction as deformed people go swirling away into a vortex of hatred. I will not give away any of the secrets of the film, such as when the man with the four necks destroys that one dude with the giant toenals using some kind of head-imploding device, but I will tell you about my five times favorite characters in the film:

1) Wolverine -- This is the best deformed person in the entire movie, for he has big metal sticks that come out of his elbows and a weird facial hair type beard with some kind of James Dean hairdo. He is a wild, wild crazy man that runs around and sweats and loves people and screams.

2) Beast -- This is a man with like a weird color of skin and hair, maybe sort of a purple or something, and his gigantic big feet allow him to do exciting wire-work like flying through the air and flashing yellow teeth. At one point, he kills everyone else in the movie and makes the movie end prematurely.

3) Brown Pants -- This X-Man has secret pants that explode with a powerful odor, knocking down opponents and crumbling walls. He holds the secret to the key to the hidden door in the security lab where the X-Men find the Deformation Device which saves America from the Plague.

4) Big N Pretty -- This guy is really big and sort of pretty and sits in a little blue chair for most of the movie, telling us what will happen in the next scene. He helps prepare us for the next scene by telling us exactly what each character will do before he or she does it. Big N Pretty gets killed in the second to last scene by having a plate glass window shoved through his colon.

5) Stabbo Killo McBritches -- This is a deformed superhero with seventy three eyes, who can see into the past and into the future but cannot see the present. He also shoots beams of pure Moon energy from his fifteenth and thirty fourth eye, and he can fly by flapping his nostrils, which are the size of condor wings. Stabbo Killo McBritches is the one who saves the day at the end of the film by detonating the Universe Unravelling Device which demolishes the City of Underwater Man-Fiends.

and the bonus deformed person...

6) Creepoman The Shadow Weirdo -- This is the villain in the film, who turns out to be the son of Professor Gregxavier Stilto. He is created when the Professor drips a drop of his sacred blood into a vat of Life Generating Oils. I won't give away too much, but Creepoman The Shadow Weirdo dies in the third scene of the Second Act of the movie when Wolverine makes a sandwich out of what he thinks is bologna but which is actually Creepoman's living soul and eats it.

All in all, this is the best Halle Berry vehicle since Catwoman and the greatest motion picture in the history of time. Fail to see it at your own peril. Yes, you read that correctly. Fail to see it at your own peril. I'm talking to you, Earl Fando.